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Industry Research : Communication: Sector Nears Peak of 18,000 Workers Hit Early in 2000s
In the last few months, New Brunswick has seen large waves of hiring for contact centres, as the call centre industry pulls itself out of slump.
Since 2009, the call centre industry in the province has grown by 13 per cent, Business New Brunswick says. Business New Brunswick said the sector, which employs 17,200 people, is almost back to its peak of 18,000 employees that it hit in the early 2000s.
Once considered a dead-end job, call centres are a growing part of the New Brunswick economy. Since 2009, the sector has grown by 13 per cent, Business New Brunswick said. Last year it made up five per cent of the provincial economy, raking in $1.5 billion.
Gina O'Rourke-McKay of Enterprise Saint John said the contact industry employs 4,800 people in the Saint John region alone. There is new growth despite losses over the past year, such as the closure of Saint John's Wyndham call centre, which cut 300 jobs. O'Rourke-McKay said three large contact centres are currently hiring in the area.
"Those are 200 jobs alone," she said. "It's good news."
In the mid-2000s, the province saw jobs return to the U.S., or outsourced across the globe, said Mike Bacon, executive director of Contact NB. After a slump that cut an estimated 10 per cent of the workforce, those jobs are coming back, he said.
Customer dissatisfaction caused contact centres to return to North America, Bacon said, and New Brunswick was a natural choice. Not only did the province already have the infrastructure but it also had a good reputation, Bacon said.
"We have a reputation for being extremely friendly people," he said, making New Brunswick an attractive spot for customer service centres.
Another secret for success, the industry association executive said, is that companies don't guard their secrets jealously, instead sharing best practices.
"There's a whole lot of expertise to draw on," Bacon said.
With nearly 80 companies represented by Contact NB, there are more than 100 sites in the province that employ anywhere from four to 1,000 employees, Bacon said.
New Brunswick has the "luxury" of stability, unlike many other provinces, because the contact centres largely serve Canadian businesses or audiences, making them less susceptible to outside influences, Bacon said.
Business New Brunswick says the average earnings of an entry-level contact services employee is $33,000 a year. But Bacon says the industry has plenty of room for individual growth.
"It's a stigma we've been trying to address over the years," he said. "There's a wide variety of skills sets there, depending on the sector," he said.
John Thompson, CEO of Enterprise Greater Moncton, agrees. He said the region works mostly with incoming calls in areas such as insurance and health and wellness.
Thompson estimates the contact service industry has held steady at 10 per cent of the local workforce. He said it generates $400 million in salaries and nearly $390 million in services for Greater Moncton. "This is a sector that contributes significantly to our economy and it's one that we need to make sure that we foster and nurture," he said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, June 6, 2011